12.20.2012

New Car Review: 2013 Nissan Z Roadster

Blue 2013 Nissan Z Roadster sideways in parking lot
The 2013 Nissan Z Roadster.

As a journalist (automotive and otherwise), I work hard to bury my biases, to keep my personal tastes from getting in the way of or into the story. By and large, I think I succeed.

But I have one bias that's best just confessed. I'm a pushover for convertibles.

I think it goes back to my Uncle Ron, who had a succession of them ('55, '59 and '63 Thunderbirds...the '63 was a Sports Roadster...and a '69 Cougar XR-7). From as young as I can remember until age 13 (when he passed away), one of the biggest treats on earth was a ride in one of Uncle Ron's convertibles. The wind in the hair, the warmth of the sun (through SPF 50 sunscreen these days) and all the other sensory delights make open-air motoring a special thing.

That's not to say every car that has a top that goes down wins me over. There have been some wretched convertibles. And even otherwise good ones battle the structural rigidity loss that comes from cutting off the roof. But the good ones are very good. And the Nissan Z Roadster is definitely one of those.

It needs to be, because it was intended to be driven in a spirited way. Small, light, 332 horsepower...this isn't for slow cruises down Main Street on Saturday night. Nissan's engineers have done a great job making sure the structure is solid and confidence-inspiring.

$44,170 is the base price...getting you that engine, a 6-speed manual, front and rear stabilizer bars, a 3-point front strut tower brace, front and rear ventilated disc brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels and a tire repair kit (saving the weight and space a spare tier would entail).

There's also anti-lock brakes, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, but the Z never feels over-nannyed.

8-way adjustable driver's seat (heated, cooled & ventilated), aluminum-trimmed pedals, cruise control, a Bose audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB and a power-folding top all come standard.



2013 Nissan Z Roadster interior
2013 Nissan Z Roadster interior.

Our tester had options...carpeted floor mats ($125), the Nissan Navigation System (hard drive with a 7-inch color monitor, USB, Bluetooth, NavTraffic and NavWeather for $2,150) and the Sport Package (19" alloy wheels, an upgrade to 245 front and 275 rear tires (from 225 and 245), sport brakes, a limited slip differential, SynchroRev Match manual transmission and Euro-tuned sport shocks for $2,830).

With destination charges of $780, it's a total of $50,055. And it's worth it. Sure, you can get a Miata for half that, but not with the power and the luxury. And anything rivalling the Z on those grounds is considerably more expensive.

Only one person was disappointed during our week with the Z. In a grocery store parking lot, I was waved down by a woman in a Nissan Murano crossover. She said she and her husband were ready to trade the Murano for a Z Roadster if the trunk could accomodate two golf bags.

I pulled over, opened the trunk...and saw the sticker on the inside...showing how to load just one golf bag.

As she drove away, I got the sense she was debating whether to keep the Murano or the husband.

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